A few weeks ago, a reader sent me a message asking what I thought about Malaysia Airlines being sold off to a foreign entity. My brief response was – who cares? Sell it off if it’s not making a profit. It’s a business entity, isn’t it? So you make a business decision. No place for sentiments here.
Sure, it feels nice to see the wau (kite) logo when you are in a foreign country and about to fly home. It’s even quite welcoming when you are flying and get served a nice plate of nasi lemak or a half dozen sticks of chicken satay and nasi impit. It definitely gives you warm, fuzzy feelings in your stomach.
But as I said, there is no place for sentiments when it comes to business. Malaysia Airlines has been in the red for a very long time and the government has tried many ways to save it. Right now, it’s just a bleeding sack of meat that the government has to continuously transfuse.
What makes it worse is that the government is using our tax money to keep Malaysia Airlines afloat. I get that we will try our best to keep a national entity in our hands, but if all else fails, what do you do? We can’t let a sinking ship drown us all for no good reason. Right?
It’s just like how it was with Proton and how everyone was making noise when the government sold 49 percent share to the Chinese company Geely. Dr Mahathir Mohamad had a lot to say about that decision, saying also that the government had failed and that he is sad his brainchild is now no longer Malaysian.
Bear in mind that the government then that made the decision to sell off Proton was under the BN administration. The situation was more or less the same. Proton was in the red and they had tried everything they could to keep in the family. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
But it isn’t that bad. Geely also owns Volvo, and they have owned it for quite a while now. Yet, the whole world still sees Volvo as a very Swedish brand. As far as Proton is concerned, when have we been this proud of a car model (the X70, in case you were wondering) since the launch of the first Saga in 1985?
‘This is the best Proton model’
Everyone is still harping that this is the best Proton model that we have produced. But did we really? Wouldn’t it have been Geely and China that produced it? Nobody cares, right? Malaysians are still claiming it and so is everyone else. So why get so uptight about keeping these businesses as national entities?
We have heard that a group of Malaysian businessmen are coming together to make an effort to take over Malaysia Airlines. Led by the less well-known AirAsia co-founder, Pahamin Ab Rajab, the group is reportedly seeking to raise RM1 billion for the takeover. Another interested businessman is Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim.
Most recently, Khazanah Nasional Bhd has apparently appointed global investment bank Morgan Stanley to lead an effort of a merger attempt between Malaysia Airlines and a top airline in the world. Looks like our national airline is getting closer and closer to not being ours anymore – and this might just be fact, really soon.
Also, apparently, the government has put in place certain requirements when it comes to this merger. That is, if it happens. There would be no compromise on the airlines’ branding (which is clearly Malaysian) and there will be no sacking or retrenchment of their 14,000 local employees.
I choose to be more practical and pragmatic. If Malaysia Airlines is taking too much of our money that could be put to better use elsewhere, then we might as well get rid of it. Many countries don’t have a national car or a national airline (well, maybe not so much the latter) and they’re all doing all right.
We already have the Petronas Twin Towers and we have the oldest state leader in the world. I don’t think that we’re lacking in the national pride department. I was going to say that we also have one of the most interesting stops in Formula 1, but we’ve given that up too!
As I said, we need to be pragmatic and practical. I just don’t think wasting millions of ringgit of taxpayers money, just so we can feel a warm fuzzy feeling looking at a wauand eating nasi lemak while flying in Europe is really worth it. Eating nasi lemak in Malaysia (like in Kampung Baru) is more authentic and tastes better anyway!
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